Emma Cairo-Benoit: Grand Tour 2022


Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

If someone would have told me in October of 2021 that I would travel to Italy in May for the FIU Honors Study Abroad Program, I would not have believed them. In fact up until March of 2022 I was prepared to be disappointed with the news that we would not a be traveling to Italy in May. However, the impossible occurred and the FIU Honors Italia Class traveled across the Atlantic to spend one month completing an adapted version of the Grand Tour.

As I was traveling on the metro in Rome on the way to Wednesday Mass at the Vatican, I noticed the woman sitting in front of me had two words tattooed on her arms: Qui and Ora, this translates to here and now in Italian. As I sat there on my way to an event I had been waiting practically my whole life to attend, I thought about how appropriate the quote was. Something we had waited and hoped for, for so long was here and we were living in it. For the rest of our Grand Tour I chose to live by those words: here and now. At each city, monument, ruin, mountain, sculpture, or artwork we visited it was a moment for me to appreciate the everything behind it the history, culture, and the present moment we were in. This is a lesson I will take with me after this program, along with all the other moments and lessons I will continue to appreciate the here an now long after I leave Italy.

Rome: The Eternal City

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

The city of Rome was founded in the year 753 B.C. and has since seen many wars, emperors, Popes, the great artists, and more. To this day, we see remnants of the ancient city alongside its modern renovations and restorations. While the city has preserved many of the ancient ruins such as the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the aqueducts, and the Pantheon, some of the ruins have been disregarded as the city has built over them. One of the most popular attractions in all of Rome is the Trevi Fountain. Approximately 7 to 10 million people travel to the Trevi Fountain each year to throw a coin and make a wish to return to Rome. The Baroque masterpiece was built at the sight of an earlier fountain which had been destroyed. It marked the junction point of three roads where an early ancient Roman aqueduct supplied water to the city. The whole area received its name from this crossing point: the word trivium, which means crossroads, underwent several changes that transformed it into di Trejo and eventually into Trevi.

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

During archeological surveys from 1999 to 2001, at the time of renovation of the Trevi Fountain, ancient ruins of a building complex were found underneath the fountain. The water from the fountain filters through the underground to this area to the Virgin Aqueduct, that was also excavated and brought to light an imposing distribution tank. This small city that lies beneath one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions contains precious stones, sculptures, and the urban history of ancient Rome.

As I explored this hidden city, I couldn’t help but to compare it to the city of Pompeii. While Pompeii was faced with a great disaster, the city still lies buried in the earth, hiding more of the history behind the city and treasures from the time. Similarly to the Tequestan land in Miami that lies underneath the heart of downtown. The history and stories that founded the city we reside in are discarded as modern buildings rise up each day. It begs the question: how much more of modern day Rome was built upon undiscovered ruins?

Florence: Authenticity

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

As I walked down the market that separates the San Lorenzo and Santa Maria Novella areas in Florence I was quickly reminded of the Chinatown district in New York City. The stands lined with purses, wallets, and belts, the salespeople haggling you to buy from their stand and not the competition next to them, and the secret alliances between stands are all attributes shared by both markets. However, one major difference between the two: the market in Florence is all leather. Aside from the occasional inauthentic leather pieces, most of the stands along Florence’s famous leather market are authentically curated in Florence, Italy. Leather production began in Florence in the 13th century due to the transportation of goods along the Arno River, and it still continues to this day across all of Florence. Walk down any street, and you will get a whiff of fresh leather from a store or stand in the Piazza. While many luxury brands purchase their leather from leather factories in Florence, the leather market serves as a more affordable alternative for Italians and tourists.

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

I was definitely overwhelmed by the ovrestimutaltion of merchandise and sales pitches to sell me a piece of leather, and hesitant to know what would be real and what was counterfeit leather. One stand in particular caught me by surprise when all I did was touch an item I was interested in and the man working the booth came up to the purse with a lighter to prove to me it was real. I was taken aback when the flame hit the material and scared it would be ruined by the fire, but I quickly learned that real leather is inflammable. I stood mesmerized by the incredible work it takes to make the authentic leather pieces that surrounded us and the artisan craft behind each item.

Cinque Terre: Lover’s Lane

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

I was born and raised in the city, and I never saw mountains until the age of ten when I traveled to my family’s original country of Colombia. My mom would constantly tell me stories about growing up in the “finkas” and all the time she would spend in nature. I think this led to a place in my heart I will always have for the beauty of mountains. I, however, also grew up in a city where the beach was always a short car ride away. I went to the beach for the first time before I could even walk, so the ocean has always has another incredible piece of my heart.

Cinque Terre took my two loves and combined them into one allowing me to experience beach and mountains at the same time. The brightness of the colors of the trees, flowers, rocks, and ocean is something I had never seen before and was incredibly special to see. It felt in a way like home, not in the same way that Miami is home, but a way that combined my love for two things that remind me of Miami and Colombia all in one place.

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

In Riomaggiore, the last land of Cinque Terre, is the trail known as Via dell’ Amore which means Lovers’ Lane. This footpath which begins on the trail from Manarola to Riomaggiore is one of the most famous paths due to its spectacular view of both mountains and the surrounding Mediterranean Sea. The name was given to the path anonymously by a traveler that wrote the phrase Via dell’ Amore at the beginning and end of the road, and for centuries locals would meet in the path for a romantic rendezvous. I walked through the open portion of the path, as part of it remains closed due to a landslide in 2012, and I thought about not my romantic love for another person but my love for the town and that it gave me in the short period we traveled there.

Venice: Personal Structures – Reflections

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

Founded in 1895, La Biennale di Venezia is one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. This international art exhibition holds different forms of art such as music, cinema, paintings, dance, and theatre. Each year they hold the private main exhibition, but they also organize pop up events throughout the city in some of the old palaces that line the grand canal in some of the most important neighborhoods in Venice. At the Palazzo Bembo located in San Marco was the exhibition called Personal Structures – Reflections which aimed to express the idea of making people more aware of their existence. By being aware of your own existence, you should then care more about everything, only after that care can we change aspects of the world we don’t like.

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

The contemporary art was a refreshing change to the classical art we had seen prior along our travels in Italy as each artist reflected on different topics in unique ways. My favorite room in the exhibition was one that had images and quotes on the walls of places and people in the world that have negative stereotypes because of where they come from. There was a photo of of a couple getting married celebrating a traditional Indian wedding and underneath a quote by a new publication talking about the marriage market in the middle east. There was also a photo of a young muslim girl at school with a quote underneath saying, “The deadliest place for children on the planet.” The entire exhibition had multiple rooms of thought provoking art such as this one, and I thought it was such an interesting contrast to a city that holds so many classical works yet they all hold their own sense of beauty.

Emma Cairo-Benoit: Italia America 2022

Il Cibo è Servito – La Comida Esta Servida

Il Antipasto – El Aperitivo

Food is one of the rare things in life that can bring people together, however it can also divide people because it is something so important to everyone. Food is what fuels us, as humans we need the nutrients in food to survive, but good food is what feeds our soul and what makes us want to discover more cuisines. We live in a world where fusion and different cultures influence what we eat on the day to day basis, but because of this traditional recipes have been lost and altered. 

I grew up in the kitchen with my grandmother making authentic Colombian dishes of sancocho, buñuelos, empanadas, pan de bonos, and mazapanes. These recipes lied in my grandmothers little brown leather book that had been passed down for generations, and have now been passed on to me. Living in Miami, whenever we would choose to go to a restaurant and order a Colombian dish, it would never be the same as those authentic recipes. Somehow the advertised “true” Colombian meals would be completely different. Restaurants in the United States have “Americanized” many food cultures from all over the world to appeal to a larger audience, but offends people who adhere to tradition and hold their native country’s authentic food close to their heart. 

Primi – El Plato Fuerte

Americans love Italian food, or so they think. Italian food has changed completely from its original form since it was brought to America. Italian restaurants began in America when immigrants came in the years around 1880. The Italians opened restaurants and food stores that existed to serve their small communities and provide an ongoing livelihood. Unfortunately, they did not have all the available resources to produce the authentic Italian cuisine that they were used to. The Italians adapted to using local ingredients, and eventually the restaurants attracted non-Italians.

One thing that has always attracted patrons to Italian restaurants is the price of food. In the early 1900s wine at an Italian restaurant was anywhere from 50 to 60 cents a quart. As immigration from Italy to America increased, prices continued to remain low. The working-class customers provided high demand for the Italian eateries, and as its customer base was laborers, they had to be inexpensive. During this time, Italian restaurants were not considered fine dining, like many are today. In 1908, many people preferred the fine dining experience at French restaurants due to the trained restauranteurs and attractive plates. However, the taste of the food in relation to the price is what kept the business alive during this time. In his book From the Antipasto to the Zabaglione – The Story of Italian Restaurants in America, Mike Riccetti says, “Cheapness coupled with exuberant and easily enjoyable flavor had already become a hallmark.”  

In the 1920s Italian immigrants were faced with a problem, laws began to be passed that limited immigration. The Quota Act of 1921 and The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 reduced new arrivals from Europe. Fewer immigrants meant that many of the Italian restaurants has to seek non-Italian customers. Along with this, Prohibition was enacted and this eradicated the distributing of alcohol in restaurants, directly affecting Italian restaurants because they were no longer allowed to serve wine with their meals. Many Italian restaurants discreetly provided wine during this time by pouring it in coffee cups to deflect attention, however many authority figures caught on and they were forced to eradicate the wine completely. This led to the opening of many Italian speakeasies which then introduced Italian food to the masses. Because of this newfound popularity, Italian restaurants began to open throughout the entire United States.

Il Dolce – El Postre

Throughout the years the once original and authentic Italian food, first served at the home-cooked immigrant restaurants, changed and became commercialized to appeal to all of America. Many dishes that we think to be authentically Italian today were created in the kitchens of restaurants in order to appeal to larger audiences. Chicken alfredo, pasta and meatballs, osso buco, Caesar salad, and tiramisu are just some of the many meals that were curated in restaurant kitchens in America. 

Food is one of the most important aspects of a culture. It tells stories of generations and and change throughout time. To someone of a specific background, when that culture is changed to be commercialized it takes away from those stories. It takes away from the memories of hearing your relatives speak about your ancestors and how they would make authentic cuisine. A New York paper noted in 1903, “No people are more devoted to their native foods than the Italians.” Italian restaurants are a common sight to this country and serve as an introduction to Italian food to many, but it does not show the real authenticity of Italian culture. Flying pizzas, plump meatballs, an immense amount of garlic on bread, and chicken in pasta is not true to the culture of Italians and is something Americans have created as a facade of Italian food. The culture lies in the kitchens of families that have passed down the original recipes through generations and work to keep the authentic of true Italian food alive. 


Riccetti, M. (2012). From the Antipasto to the Zabaglione – The Story of Italian Restaurants in America

Sohn, J. (2019, August 10). History of pasta and its influence in the U.S. – june sohn. Scholar Blogs – Emory University. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/noodlenarratives/2019/08/10/history-of-pasta-and-its-influence-in-the-u-s-june-sohn/

Emma Cairo-Benoit: Italia as Text 2022

Hello! My name is Emma Cairo-Benoit, and I am currently a junior at Florida International University studying Public Relations Advertising and Applied Communications. In the future, I plan to work in the entertainment industry as a social media manager. Since, the beginning of my college career, I have dreamt about studying abroad, and I am so happy to finally be able to achieve that dream of studying the history and culture of Italy.

Roma as Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

Cammina Secondo la Fede

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU in Rome, 9 May – 23 May 2022

Before I could even speak, Catholicism was ingrained into me. While living in my grandparents house as a child my grandfather would carry me around the house and would always stop in front of a small silver plaque with the image of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus, there he taught me how to do the sign of the cross. I was baptized at the same church where I would attend Catholic school for twelve years of my life and then leave to continue my education at an all-girl Catholic high school run by nuns. I have had my moments, in my twenty years of life as a Catholic, of doubt and uncertainty, along with some contradictory thoughts on Catholic beliefs. However, I have always found solace in my faith and in the wonders of certain aspects. Being able to visit some of the most important churches in Catholicism was a transforming moment for me. Standing in front of the steps that Jesus walked on to face his fate given to him by Pontius Pilate as he was sentenced to the crucifixion at the Santa Scala was a moment I never thought I would be able to witness. For years I have heard the same story in theology classes and during Mass at Holy Week services where Jesus was betrayed by his apostle Judas and he was then arrested and flagellated before being brought to Pontius Pilate where the crowd then got to choose between Jesus and Barbbarus on whom to set free. The crowd chose to set Barbbarus, a convicted murder, free and Pontius Pilate then sentenced Jesus, convicted of treason, to be crucified. Seeing not only the steps Jesus walked on but a piece of the column where he was flagellated was such a solemn moment for me. Rome holds so much history not only in the foundation of the city and the architecture, but in Catholicism as well. People that travel and pilgrim from all over the world to see a glimpse of relics or to visit the capital of the religion find peace and a sense of clarity in finally being able to see for themselves the true faith.

Pompeii as Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

A City Frozen in Time

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU at Pompeii, 16 May 2022

On August 24, 79 BCE, Mount Vesuvius erupted over the city of Pompeii burying it in volcanic ash and debris leaving the city to be preserved and forgotten about until the 16th century. The city founded by the Greeks and then taken over by the Romans was known for being extremely ahead of its time and a commercial city. Pompeii is often compared to the modern New York City of its time with people constantly traveling, the scandalous yet enthralling sexual industry, the class system and social scene. When Mount Vesuvius erupted many fled the city to safety but others thought they had more time and chose to stay in the city. Approximately 2,000 people were killed in Pompeii because of asphyxiation of the toxic gases of the volcano, they were then covered in the ash that later hardened leaving the city exactly how it was at the time of the eruption. When the city was rediscovered in 1748 by engineering surveyors, they found empty cavities that seemed to be in the shape of humans so they filled the spaces with a plaster mold and then were able to find the remains of the individuals that perished in the fall of Pompeii. To this day only two thirds of the city of Pompeii has been excavated. In 2010, the Schola Armaturarum, the old gladiator barracks collapsed due to the pressure put on them by the physical mass of the unexcavated city pushing up against them. Most of the funds given to the city today are allocating towards preserving what has already been uncovered, but the complete excavation continues day by day to fully uncover the remains of the lost city. 

Tivoli as Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

La Simplicita della Natura

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU in Tivoli, 13 May 2022

For me, nature has always been how I most connect to God and to this world. The beauty of a sunset, an open field, the greenery of trees, fresh flowers, or a wide mountain range gives me one of the most fulfilling feelings seeing the raw beauty this earth has to offer. Tívoli was the first time in Italy where I was able to have that sense of peace in nature. Hadrian’s Villa was built as a retreat for him from the Palatine Hill in Rome. Hadrian had Spanish background therefore he was unpopular in Rome because of his Spanish accent and he decided to continue his rule as Emperor in his villa in Tívoli. He was the first emperor to rule away from the city. In the villa, Hadrian’s study was constructed as a moat with a private room surrounded by a water defense and an open patio in the center. The gardens hill overlooking the mountainside and city or Tívoli also allow you to take in the simplicity of the town compared to the loud bustle of Rome. While the villa was created to be an extravagant getaway for the Roman emperor it still leaves a lasting impression as a way to be more connected with the earth. After Hadrian’s Villa, at the end of the day trip to Tivoli, going down the valley of hell in the mountain was such a tranquil experience for me. Being fully surrounded by the trees, greenery, and flowers, as well as climbing into Neptune’s Grotto seeing the crystal clear water flowing out of the mountain felt grounding in a sense and made me fully realize the need for an escape from the business of city life into the peace and tranquility of the nature in the country. 

Firenze as Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

La Primavera

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU in Florence, 23 May – 31 May 2022

Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera painting, displayed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence is said to be one of the most popular and controversial paintings in the world. Standing in the presence of the painting’s beauty I was able to understand the world’s captivation of one painting. The immense detail in Botticelli’s work left me wonderstruck as I tried to take in and analyze every inch of the artwork. From the hidden sexual innuendos to all the plants and greenery in the landscape, your eyes don’t know where to fall when looking at the masterpiece. The depiction of the women in Greek mythology each represent a different value but together create a sense of harmony across the entire painting. Zephyrus being taken from the forest by a nymph with flowers spilling out of her mouth, Flora the goddess of spring appears to be pregnant as she throws flower petals from her arms, Venus in the middle chastely covered with a red shawl that drapes to represent a sexual innuendo, and the three graces dancing in a circle with their hands joining all represent a celebration of love, peace, and prosperity. There is also said to be 500 different plant species in the Primavera which additionally demonstrates the impeccable attention and intelligence of Bottecelli. Seeing this painting in person does not compare to seeing it on a projector in a classroom or on a computer screen. It truly takes your breath away standing in front of it and figuring out the meaning behind each element of the painting makes it even more memorable. 

Siena as Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

The Stengal Moment

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU in Siena, 27 May 2022

The Stengal moment, as it was taught to us, is a moment in which you are so overcome by a place, an artwork, a monument, or the beauty and meaning behind something. I have been searching, or rather, hoping to have that Stengal moment the entire trip. I finally had that moment in the cathedral of Siena. To me, the simplicity of the dome with the blue squares and gold star design along with the gold angels around the oculus of the dome was the perfect contrast to the eccentric designs throughout the rest of the church. However, the thing that led to my Stengal moment was the mosaic artwork on the floor of the cathedral, more specifically the piece that depicts the Massacre of the Innocents. At the time of Jesus’s birth King Herod of Judea ordered the execution of all male children two years old and younger in the area of Bethlehem because he feared the threat of The Messiah’s birth. When we learned that this piece in particular was not just created to display the church’s wealth, but in fact it was created as a contemporary piece to represent the issues in the city going on at the time. Relating the Slaughter of the Innocents to the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, resonated with me extremely. The United States is facing a major issue as we continue to see a consistent rise in mass shootings, our society’s version of the Killing of the Innocents. The shooting at Uvalde was the second mass shooting in the span of two weeks, and 21 children and teachers were murdered. Being out of the country when it occurred made the news seem out of reach, but standing over the mosaic looking at an artistic representation from over 500 years ago that still relates to what our world is facing today really set in fact that there needs to be change. Artwork such as the mosaic of the killing was created to remind people of the wrongs in order to change for the better. Understanding the deeper meaning behind the mosaic in the cathedral was incredibly moving and finally allowed me to have that Stengal moment I have been waiting for.  

Cinque Terre As Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

The Five Lands

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU in Cinque Terre, 30 May – 3 June 2022

While on the Grand Tour, travelers would arrive to Cinque Terre and spend a few days there reflecting on their travels and all they have learned and accomplished throughout their tour. After learning about this tradition, I took the time in Cinque Terre to do the same. Being in the mountain and the calmness of the beach was a relaxing contrast to the restless cities of Florence and Rome. Living in the Santuario di Savorie for a few days was a great way to disconnect, and speaking directly to some of the travelers there that were completing their own Grand Tour was a humbling way to compare the experiences. For the past couple of weeks I have felt very caught up in the movement between each city and what the next day will bring, but while hiking in Cinque Terre from mountain to mountain with nothing but the sounds of the birds, the rustling of the trees, the wind, and the streams of the water it was a great opportunity to think about how thankful I am for this amazing experience. I had my moment of, “I actually made it to the place I had dreamed about, and it’s all coming to an end in a few days.” After the hike, ending in Manarola, a few students and I went to the rocks and jumped into the Mediterranean Sea, and while swimming with the people who were practically strangers a few weeks ago I realized just how lucky I am to share this experience with them. This small period of rest and relaxation prepared me for the final leg of the Grand Tour and reminded me to soak up and appreciate every last minute.   

Venezia as Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU in Venice, 3 June – 7 June 2022

Started in 1974, the Vogalonga Regatta is a non-competitive row boat race along the canals of Venice that began as a peaceful protest against wave damage caused by motor boats, and lagoon degeneration. This celebration takes place once a year and brings together Venetians and enthusiasts from all over the world. Rowers from across the globe travel to Venice each year to be part of the Regatta and participate in any style of rowboat in teams or solo. While the race is non-competitive, spectators line the waterways and bridges in Venice to cheer on teams showing support and enthusiasm for participants. The good-spirited fun is evident in the rower’s teams cheers and singing as they row down the grand canal and wave to viewers. Walking down the Ponte Rialto on June 5th, the sudden sounds of cheers and large crowds on the edge of the bridge stopped me and my classmates as we were strolling through the city. We stopped to look over the bridge and we’re stunned to see so many rowboats in the canals. In the brightest shades of pinks, neon yellows, red stripes, and even Franciscan monks rowers made their way down the canal waving to all as we joined the crowd in cheering for each boat that passed. We had no idea what was occurring, but after a quick google search I learned the quick history on the Regatta and we were fully able to emerge ourselves in the Venetian tradition. This moment of watching and cheering alongside the crowds was truly one I won’t forget as I felt the enthusiasm and energy all around me.

Emma Cairo-Benoit: Miami as Text 2022

Hello everyone! My name is Emma Cairo-Benoit, and I am currently a junior at Florida International University. I am majoring in Public Relations Advertising and Applied Communications. I truly don’t know what specific career path I will choose, but the one thing I did know when I came to college, was that I wanted to Study Abroad. I never thought it would actually become a reality because of the state of the world, but I look forward to finally achieving my dream in May. I can’t wait to learn about the Italian culture and lifestyle as we prepare to travel, and live the Italian way once we reach Italy. Ciao for now!

Deering As Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

Knowing Your Roots

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU at the Deering Estate, 6 February 2022

I am a second generation American born member of my family and I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. The truth is I have never felt truly proud to be born in Miami because I never had that sense of unity with my city. Living in Miami my entire life, I have been accustomed to this mentality that Miami is a melting pot filled with people of different backgrounds and cultures, and this is true. I drive to school everyday and I look around and see my classmates that come from entirely different cultures, and I cant help but think that there is no one common theme that brings us all together. 

Before visiting the Deering Estate, I truly did not know how impactful the history of Miami truly is. What was once a home to Charles Deering, is 444 acres of history and culture that is rooted through all of Miami. The estate has preserved what Miami was like in its raw form, the Miami that was inhabited by Paleo-Americans and the Tequesta. Walking through the pure form of nature, untouched by the industrial world, puts into perspective just how lucky we are to live in a city so deeply rooted in history. 

Many people like myself who have grown up in Miami, driven down the same streets, and lived in the same neighborhoods their whole lives don’t know the importance of the Deering Estate. The city we know today was built on so much culture and history that people are not aware of. Looking at the channel dredged by Bahamian workers, admiring the hand carved arches, walking on the Miami rock ridge, hiking past solution holes, and standing at a Tequestal burial site allowed me to appreciate my city for all that it stems from. 

Miami will always be a city where people of different backgrounds and cultures come together, and many of these people won’t know the history behind the beautiful city we live in. But it’s the history found at the Deering Estate that unites us all as one.

Vizcaya As Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

Miami’s European Hideaway

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 6 March 2022

As you drive along the long road surrounded by trees and greenery that line the path to Vizcaya, you are transported to a European countryside and grow in awe of the beauty of the estate. In 1912, James Deering, the wealthiest man in Miami, began the construction of the Vizcaya mansion and its garden. Deering along with his artistic director, Paul Chalfin, designed the house and garden with heavy inspiration from Spanish culture. Deering spared no expense with the decor and curation of the home. He imported arches, painting, furniture, and statues from different countries in Europe to authentically show the European influence he wanted to portray. Today, the estate has become a defining piece that makes Miami what it is, and the culture behind it tells an even more incredible story. Key moments such as when Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Regan met in Miami occurred at the doors of Vizcaya.

A few years ago I had the incredible opportunity to visit the palace of Versailles in France, and while walking through Vizcaya it was as if I had been transported back to the castle in France. The inspiration taken from such an important location in history was uncanny. The extravagant touches of gold in the rooms, the stained glass windows, the gardens, and the artwork took me back to that place as a young girl completely in awe of the French palace. That feeling of wonder and excitement was not something I was expecting to feel when I walked through the entrance of Vizcaya, a place that every Miami native visits at least once. Vizcaya, hidden by trees and forest on the edge of Biscayne Bay, is built with breathtaking architecture and rich in European culture that has influenced most of Miami for what it is today. 

Miami as Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

Concrete Jungle

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU in Downtown Miami, 26 March 2022

Ever since I was younger driving along the Julia Tuttle Causeway in downtown Miami and seeing all the buildings along bayside and downtown. To me, there was a sense of magic in the city life because growing up in the suburbs of Miami, downtown was a completely different world. This time as I walked through downtown I was reminiscent on that feeling I always had, but it found a way to take on a new form. The buildings and views that I have admired my whole life have such a deep history. The very name of the Julia Tuttle causeway is after the woman who founded the city.

There is so much history that as Miami natives we aren’t taught in school and it is hidden by the materialistic world we live in. The story of the Wagner house or even Fort Dallas during the Seminole Wars is something that isn’t taught in the history classes. The controversy in monumenting Henry Flagler is something that isn’t discussed as often as it should be. The one thing that continues to surprise me throughout the semester is the impact of the Tequesta on the foundation of Miami. Seeing the Miami Circle and what they have done to commemorate the Tequesta site was extremely moving. Even though it was a small commemoration and there is still so much that can be done to educate people on the Tequesta and memorialize them, it was a special feeling standing where they stood at one point.

The one stop on the tour that meant the most to me was the Freedom Tower. My grandparents on both sides of my family left their countries in order to build better lives for themselves and their families. They made the utmost sacrifice of leaving everything behind for a small chance at a better future. The Freedom Tower is a symbol of all that they went through to get to where they are now, and seeing the photos of all the families who have the same story was extremely heartwarming. Finally, the artwork we saw at the Government Center that was made up of a broken bowl and orange slices and peels is the perfect representation of Miami, the order in disorder and the beauty in chaos. 

SoBe as Text

Images taken by Emma Cairo-Benoit/ CC by 4.0

No Place Like South Beach

By Emma Cairo-Benoit of FIU in South Beach, 08 April 2022

South Beach, known for its clear waters, powdery sand, impeccable fashion, and electric nightlife, is one of the most unique locations in the world. It’s Art Deco buildings are distinctive to Miami, and hold true to what the original architects of Miami set out to do. Miami Beach was intended to be a welcoming space where everyone can relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the island. Miami Beach became segregated and staying overnight on the island became exclusive to whites. Today, it is celebrated for being welcoming to people of all backgrounds as people from around the world vacation on Miami Beach daily. 

The eccentric architecture on Miami Beach, which has been preserved for so long due to the activism of Barbara Baer Capitman, is one that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The colors, shapes, edges, windows, decks, and neon signs create some of the most iconic buildings on Ocean Drive. There’s an aspect to every major city that makes it unique and its own, for Miami, it’s Ocean Drive. No where else in the world can you find a street with buildings and architecture as diverse, with inspiration from so many different cultures, as Miami. 

Gianni Versace, designer and former resident of Miami Beach, once said that designers must help others to be “glamorous, happy, and alive,” and there are truly no better words to describe Miami Beach and the feeling it gives its patrons.

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